Kolkata clinch first ISL crown

Atletico de Kolkata walked away as champions of the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) here on Saturday, winning 1-0.

Facing Kerala Blasters in the final, Atletico’s Mohammad Rafique scored the winner deep into stoppage time to send the Kolkata-based franchise into overdrive with celebrations.

There was barely time for the restart and the forlorn faces on the Blasters bench told a story of its own. The victory was that much sweeter for Atletico, given that they were without the injured Fikru Teferra.

Atletico, who started the league in fine fashion, floundered to be languishing in mid-table but a recovery towards the end of the campaign kept them in good stead.

Incidentally, Blasters started the league poorly, winning only four of the first 13 games. After squeaking through the last four at the expense of Delhi Dynamos, they were rank outsiders against Chennaiyin, who topped the league phase. But the Blasters caught them cold with a stunning 3-0 victory in the first-leg of the semis before narrowly advancing despite a 3-1 loss in the second leg.

The Kolkata outfit, who came into this match without a win in seven games, had to rely on penalties against FC Goa in the second semifinal.

The match, in some quarters, had been billed as an encounter between Sachin Tendulkar, who co-owns the Kerala franchise, and Sourav Ganguly, a part-owner of Atletico.
And the owners definitely added to the glamour quotient of the first edition, which has
been a remarkable hit across the country.

Spectator turnout in places like Kochi exceeded 60,000 as fans flocked to stadiums to watch some of the biggest stars. Seeing how the rage has caught on with the public, expect the league to return next year. And that in itself can be called a success.

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